Is Christianity Failing? If so, Why?

There is little doubt that, down through he ages, Christians around the world have made a huge contribution for good. So why is it that their numbers seem to be decreasing? One researcher compiled these figures of Christianity as a percentage of population:

UK: 1900, 96.7%; 1990, 72.4%; 2001, 71.6%; 2011, 59.50%; 2016, 42%
Europe: 1900, 94.5%; 1990, 78.5%; 2001, 76.1%; 2011, 72.00%; 2016, 61%
USA: 1900, 96.6%; 1990, 86.5%; 2001, 84.2%; 2011, 77.50%; 2016, 67%

Some question, with all our technology and progress, what would cause our numbers to tumble so profoundly. What are YOUR theories? Why do YOU believe these numbers are happening? The researcher who prompted this question is, himself, South Asian. He’d love to assemble the research and make a different to help reverse these trends. Will you help by giving your opinion? Just click “Comment” following the web version of this item. (Thanks for asking the question, John Paul!)

13 Responses to Is Christianity Failing? If so, Why?
  1. Eloise Reply

    Probably not so different from the nation of Israel who followed God until things were really nice and comfortable. Then they began to do their own thing and not obey or follow the Lord. They thought they could do it on their own. Oops.

  2. John Lindner Reply

    I realize the phenomenon permeates the whole western world, but the Supreme Court removing the Bible from our schools in 1963, followed by it telling us we can’t pray in schools, has removed the biblical world view from the population–except those that go to church. So even bring the gospel to them must now cross bigger chasms. You have to present the biblical world view first, before you can present the solution.

  3. Ted Bjorem Reply

    From it’s beginning the church goes through cycles. Just using England. Beginning in the early 100’s the church there needed renewal every 100-200 years.

    In early 1700s both England and France were headed for violent revolution, why didn’t England have one? In England there were taverns on most streets, much gambling, rare the neighbourhood

    What rescued it and the places England colonised? The Whitfield / Wesley revival. Began by Whitfield, he organised into the accountability groups, then turned them over to the Wesley’s.
    See George Whitefield by Arnold A. Dallimore,
    Cornerstone Books

    Disciples of Wesley made Australia, where I now live, a very different place: high morality in early Governors and chaplains, the education of street urchins by Christians made Australia the most literate nation in the world until mid 1800’s (when the State took over), also gave her a Christian Constitution.

    In the rest of the world, while not fantastic, Britains treatment of conquered peoples was the most humane of any of the colonial powers.

    God made us to be light, to overpower the dark. When we take His gift for granted, we douse His light. He never stopped calling us to suffer.

    No matter who we are, our ancestors probably killed or beat the first missionaries. As soon as we buy into a faith of comfort and convenience we no longer see the lostness of the lost.

    • Suzana Koscianski Reply

      I took a course Brigada released. It taught exactly what you say. It cheers us up.

  4. Joshua Reply

    It’s interesting to ask the question of “Is Christianity failing?” and then consider only statistics from the western world. To be fair, it’s perfectly reasonable to have concern over the state of Christianity in the west and to take into consideration the sobering decline in the U.S. and Europe. However, it also betrays how we in the west often think of Christianity as primarily a western thing. That, though, is very far from the truth and when the world as a whole is considered, the answer to the original question of “is Christianity failing?” is an emphatic NO! The statistics I’ve read and heard indicate that evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world. While declining significantly in rapidly secularizing western culture, it is growing tremendously in other parts of the world. I recently read a report that indicated 3 out of 4 evangelicals live in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The global church has risen up in amazing ways sometimes thanks to western missionaries, and sometimes totally unrelated (and sometimes in spite of). Our western Christian outlook, unfortunately, is so often plagued by self-centeredness, ethnocentrism, and bias that we could ask this question and think the answer is yes simply because we are unable to look beyond ourselves to see that we aren’t the only Christians, or the only Christians that really matter. If indeed our corner of Christianity is failing, then it’s high time we open our eyes to God’s movement throughout the world and start listening to (instead of always assuming the place of teacher) the brothers, the churches, the theologians and missiologists of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East. They are growing while we are shrinking so it might reason that we’d have something to learn from them. Interestingly enough, another report I recently read commented on trend of American evangelicals to side with rightwing politics and embrace strong anti-immigration opinions and policies. While many fear the arrival of the other with their foreign ways and religions who will reshape the fabric of our so called Christian heritage, this report indicated that in fact two-thirds of immigrants are Christians (which kinda makes sense considering the vast number of Christians that inhabit the rest of the world). Here’s a quote that seemed to really resonate with the struggle of our own self-centeredness as well as the original question asked by this post:
    “As the United States becomes less Christian by the attrition of Americans with European heritage, it becomes more Christian through non-white migration. If evangelicals want to reinvigorate the Church, they need the vitality of World Christianity.”

    • Suzana Koscianski Reply

      I agree although I didn’t understand your last comment.

      I’d like to add: you need to build that wall.

      • Joshua Reply

        That final quote was saying that while the number of Christians in the U.S. may be declining among European background Americans (primarily referring to white christians), the number of Christians migrating from other countries to the U.S. is actually growing. With that in mind, immigration may actually be an answer the decline of the church in the U.S.
        Regarding your other comment: What wall? Trump’s wall? No, no, no. We most certainly do not need to build that wall.

    • Mark Sequeira Reply

      Yes, I have read those statistics too (see where in the post below!) Thank you for this clarification!

    • Mark S Reply

      Great post.
      You said most of what I was going to say.
      The book “Jesus Untangled” by Keith Giles, “The Next Evangelicalism” by Soong Chan Rah, and “The Next Christendom” by Phillip Jenkins do a good job defining most of the points you made in case anyone is interested in exploring any of them further.

      Thank you!

  5. Suzana Koscianski Reply

    – Evangelicals took their salvation for granted, then look down at non-Christians,what push them away instead of drawing them to Christ.
    – They keep an account of souls they saved for Christ. (A pastor who teaches pastors says God is in debt with him).
    – If they know you are a Christian they insist: “Come to my church”. They don’t mingle. It’s all about what ‘my pastor says’, even if it contradicts the Bible.

    Conservative should join arms against a common enemy. Can you think of two greatest antagonists than feminists and Islam? Yet they successfully join forces against us.

  6. Rick Babley Reply

    These stats are for the West, but the global South is now the arena of growth for the church. Thinking of the implications of that fact leads me to conclude that God wants to challenge us much as the Gentiles coming to faith – grafted onto the olive tree of Israel – was meant to make the Jews jealous and challenge them and their self-assured righteousness. Does not the West (esp. the USA) have a toxic smugness about itself? When we get jealous of what God is doing in the Third World, perhaps we will humble ourselves and leave our self-confidence behind.

  7. John Reply

    The first question is what do we mean by “Christianity?” If we mean the church, as in the bride of Christ, it is not failing, because our victory is not based on our own efforts, but God’s. However, the church, or more precisely, local bodies of believers, lose their way when they lose their first love. And individual churches lose their first love when the individuals in the body lose their first love. Cooling embers aren’t able to help each other keep burning when they individually wander too far from the eternal source of heat, Christ.

    How often do we ourselves lose touch with our first love? It is too easy to substitute a genuine, intimate, personal, love relationship with Christ with activity, strategy, effort, energy and many seemingly good things for the purpose of advancing the kingdom. These are all good things, but have we lost our first love? They mean nothing if we have.

    If we nurture that love, can we not be assured that the Holy Spirit will direct our thoughts and paths, and provide all the necessary means for us to fulfill Christ’s mission? Most assuredly.

    Let us therefore do nothing that would divert us from our first love. Let us ask ourselves and each other how we can encourage one another to love Christ more deeply. And let that love compel us to complete Christ’s mission, for His glory and for the good of all people who have been called according to His purposes.

    I have not taken the time to provide the scripture references, but I’m hoping the words I’ve used will remind people of the relevant scriptures (e.g, Rev 2:4, Eph 1:11).

    Blessings to you all and to the researcher in South Asia.

  8. Mark Sequeira Reply

    I was blessed to read both “The Next Christendom the coming of global christianity” by Jenkins and “The Next Evangelicalism” by Soong-Chan Rah, as well as hear Oscar Muriu speak this week at MissioNexus on this same subject: The issue of the Western and European/American Church’s impact shrinking and the rapid growth and strength of the non-western church in Latin America/South America, Africa and Asia.

    I have purposely begun reading, seeking out, and listening to non-American/non-Western leaders in the church to hear their concerns, their insights on what is important when it comes to theology, missiology, and more.

    As the American church, we like to lead. We like to think our money and higher learning is indispensable. We like to think our insights and conclusions are final and enduring while God is moving in other places and creating new methods and new insights that may be more effective or better understood.

    Pastor Muriu well stated, “We cannot afford your (American) methods in Africa. We have tried them but we cannot afford them. We will have to do things differently and use what God has uniquely given us instead of what He has given you.” This was very interesting to hear and I hope the American and western church is as adept at listening (versus leading) because we will more and more become partners in this great work rather than leaders in it.
    This is then a call for humility.

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